Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chocolate Macarons

Dear Diary,

I will never again complain about the price of macarons. I will gratefully and happily hand over as many Euro as the nice people behind the counter want. I will marvel at their crisp, crumbly shell, chewy interior, glorious feet and decadent filling.

And the next time I get to pick the recipe for a blog event, I'm picking something easy.


When the time came for me to pick the recipe for this month's Chocolate with Francois, I swallowed deeply and typed "chocolate macarons." This because we adore macarons, and whenever we go to Paris, we always pick up our favorites and try some new ones. I always thought it would be nice to make them myself, but never did. This gave me the perfect excuse.

I did a lot of research, and the more I learned, the more stressed out I became. I learned that macarons are temperamental. That small changes in temperature, humidity, the moisture in the almond meal, changing your hair color (OK, maybe not that) can wreck your macarons. That cracks, dull-looking macs, footless macs and other horrors are all too easy to produce, especially if you're new to mac making. Should you age your egg whites (some are adamant, others say it doesn't make a difference)? My head was spinning with the Important Choices I was facing.

But every journey starts by putting one foot in front of the other, so I went step by step and just pushed through.
Sifting the dry ingredients is hard when the almond meal is coarse

I first made the recipe about a week and a half ago and learned a lot. The macarons turned out OK, not great, but sort of dull, lumpy and a bit hard. I had made most of them the size of a quarter as the book said and got tons of hard little buttons of cookies. I decided I'd try to fit them in again before our posting date. That ended up being last night after I came home from work.

The sugar syrup took forever to come up to temperature

It was 10:30 PM by the time I finished the second batch, and my photos are pretty bad as a result, but the macarons looked so much better than the first batch. They tasted better, and had much better texture. Here's what I learned:

  • This post was invaluable to me. I liked the scientific explanation of what can go right (and wrong) when you're making macs. This one, the quintessential Bakerella method, was another valuable source of information and technique.
  • I weighed all of my ingredients using the metric measurements Payard provides in the book.
  • You can make the ganache before starting on the macarons. It took my ganache a full two hours to chill both times, and the second time I gave up after two hours and stuck it in the fridge for 30 minutes. I was tired
  • When I make these again, I'll make one and one-half times the ganache recipe. I like how a thicker layer of ganache looks (and tastes!)
  • Bob's Red Mill almond meal/flour is too coarse for these. The first time I made the recipe, I used the almond flour without evening it out in the blender (or drying in the oven as one writer suggested) and my macs were very, umm, extruded looking. The second time I popped the almond flour and cocoa in the blender to make it even finer and it worked (though be very careful to pulse, not puree or you'll end up with chocolate almond butter-probably yummy but not the recipe we're making.)
  • The first time, my egg whites ended up too firm and that contributed to the extruded appearance and texture. The second time, I beat the egg whites on speed 4 on the KitchenAid, and took it down to 2 when they seemed to be getting too far ahead of the sugar (which took a lifetime to go from 230 to 250 degrees.)
  • After adding the hot sugar syrup, I stopped beating the egg whites before the bottom of the bowl was cool the second time. It was still warmish though certainly not hot when I turned off the mixer. This kept me from beating it into the dense, rubbery substance I got the first time.
  • I used a larger tip for the piping bag the second time, and that reduced hand strain and made it possible for the larger bits of almond meal to slip by.
  • The second time, I baked on the middle and lower shelves of the oven. This is because my oven preheats in cycles from the bottom, sides and top of the oven, which it did after I turned the oven back on after the 5 minute rest period. That gave the macs on the top rack a bit of a sunburn. They were still delicious but didn't look as nice.
  • If you want a thrill, turn on your oven light when you turn the oven back on after the 5 minute rest. You will see the macarons rise before your eyes, forming the feet that are one of the elements of a successful mac. Try not to shout "FEET! THEY HAVE FEET!" because you'll scare everyone in the house.
  • When you press the top mac onto the frosting and bottom mac, don't press too hard against the sheet pan or the mac will crack. 
  • After I finished making these last night at 10:30, I snuck over to my friend Susan's blog and read her post. She had a lot of valuable insights into making these. One of the things she said is that she loved how crispy the macarons were fresh, but missed the crispy shell after the macarons had softened up in the refrigerator. So I experimented with leaving them out overnight. The macarons that I put in an airtight container and left on the counter softened up much like they do in the fridge. But the ones I left out on a plate (uncovered) were still crisp outside with chewy middles...pretty yummy in my book. Now, the humidity in my house is about 40% since our climate is dry. I don't expect these to last very long so I think I'll store them uncovered.

The dry ingredients mixed with some of the egg whites

Adding the hot sugar to the egg whites

This meringue was over beaten and the macs tough as a result

Adding the meringue to the dry ingredients

Tuck your bag into the tip before filling it to avoid leakage

Macs the size of a quarter are tiny!

The first batch: a little disappointing

The second batch...much improved

So there you have it. If someone like me...lazy, messy, not meticulous or fussy, can make decent, yes, even delicious, macarons, so can you. Please visit the other Chocolate with Francois bakers to see their macarons...they're an inspiring group of bakers.

Here's the recipe from the book, Chocolate Epiphany:

Francois Payard says: The macaron is the most Parisian of all cookies, found most famously at the shops Laduree, Fauchon or Pierre Herme. There cannot be a chocolate book by a French pastry chef without a recipe for chocolate macarons! Plus, they're addictive: a rich ganache is sandwiched between two meringues that have a crusty exterior shell and a chewy, moist interior. You can fill them with pistachio puree or seedless raspberry jam if you want, but my favorite will always be this chocolate classic. Unlike most macaron recipes, other than Laduree's, these are made with a cooked meringue. Anything with meringue is sensitive to humidity; make these only on dry days.

Chocolate Macarons (makes about 30 macarons)
Printable recipe
3 2/3 cups (450 grams) confectioners' sugar
4 cups (400 grams) almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds
7 tablespoons (44 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar

4 ounces (120 grams) 50% chocolate, chopped
2 ounces (53 grams) 100% chocolate, chopped
4 1/2 teaspoons (27 grams) light corn syrup
1 cup (240 grams) heavy cream

Make the macarons:
Place a rack each in the upper and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats. If you have enough baking sheets,  double them up (this will prevent the macarons from baking too fast).

Sift together the confectioners' sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder over a large bowl. Stir in 4 of the egg whites, until the mixture is smooth and lump-free.

With a candy thermometer handy, combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup (125 grams) water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. If sugar sticks to the sides of the pan, dip a pastry brush in water and brush the sides.

While the sugar is cooking, put the remaining 5 egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with the whisk attachment. Once the sugar reaches 230 degrees on the candy thermometer, start beating the eggs on medium speed. When the sugar reaches 250 degrees, pour it into the eggs in a slow stream, with the mixer running, down the inside of the bowl. Continue beating until the meringue is thick and the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch.

With a silicone spatula, gently fold the meringue into the dry ingredients, in four increments. Fold until everything is well combined.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag, and cut a 1/2 inch opening in the tip or corner of the bag. Pipe the batter into quarter-size disks on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between macarons. The macarons should have a uniform size. Let them sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes, until a skin forms. This will transform into a beautiful crust on the finished macarons.

Put the macarons in the oven, and turn the oven off for 5 minutes. After that time, turn it back on to 400 degrees, and continue baking for 8 minutes, until a crust forms and they are soft inside. Remove from oven and let the macarons cool on the pans.

Make the ganache:
Combine both chocolates and the corn syrup in a medium bowl. Pour the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Pour over the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the ganache cool, stirring periodically with a silicone spatula, until it reaches pipeable consistency, about 60 minutes. It should feel like a thick icing.

Assemble the macarons:
Turn the silicone baking mat over, and carefully pull it away from the macarons, to free them. Turn half of the macarons over, so that their flat side is facing up.

Spoon the ganache into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag, and cut a 1/2-inch opening in the tip or corner of the bag. Pipe a nickel-size amount of ganache in the center of the macarons that are facing up. Gently press the remaining macarons over the ganache, to make small sandwiches. Try to match the size of the two halves as closely as possible.

Store the macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to two months.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Caramel or Fudge-Drenched Vanilla Cakes

Wendy of Pink Stripes chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, rum-drenched vanilla cakes. We don't do alcohol so I had to figure out a way to take out the main flavor component and make this fabulous. The answer to any question, of course, is always chocolate. But I've learned that not everyone likes chocolate (I know, can you believe it?) So I made caramel sauce to go along for those who eschew chocolate.

I've posted my hot fudge and caramel recipes before so I won't go over the preparation for those again (but they're both fabulous, especially the hot fudge). I made these cakes, the hot fudge and caramel before I went to work. And I didn't get up at 3. That's how easy all of the recipes are.

In fact, the preparation was so easy and yummy that I hardly remember any details...and I just made this it week! I bypassed poking holes in the warm cakes and pouring the sauces over them, but I think they would be delicious with the caramel sauce infused into the cake. I'm going to try the recipe like that next time.

If you'd like to see what the other TWD bakers did with this one, you can find links to their posts here. And now for a self indulgent picture of Pearl and Joy:

Pearl (on the left) is 10 months old and Joy is a year old. It doesn't really show in this photo but Joy is dwarfed by Pearl.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Group: My Kitchen, My World Goes to India

This post is evidence that it is possible for one's arm to be twisted remotely. I absolutely, positively had no intention of joining anther cooking or baking group (well, I'm waiting for one to become official, but other than that). But my blogging and Twitter friend Kayte invited me to cook along with her on two Indian recipes she was making for My Kitchen, My World. We LOVE Indian food, so I gladly joined her for making hara shorva (a green soup) and chicken in a red pepper sauce. Both recipes can be found in Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking.

The soup starts with a base of potatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, peas, chile and spices which is cooked and then pureed in the blender before being finished with cream. It was very easy and delicious. You can find the recipe here.

The chicken and red peppers uses a cooked pureed spice and vegetable mixture like many curries do, to which cubed chicken is added (along with some water) and then simmered until the chicken is done. It was delicious and could easily take a place in the rotation here. Check out the recipe here.

My Kitchen, My World has a monthly recipe assignment based on a country selected by the month's host (this time, our host was another Twitter buddy, Margaret of Tea & Scones). Honestly, I don't think any other cuisine could have gotten me to join another group!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ina Garten's Sour Cream Coffee Cake AND Scalloped Tomatoes

Barefoot Bloggers is relaxing a bit over the summer, and that's excellent news for me. I was on vacation when the June picks were announced and the relaxed schedule made it possible for me to make both selections. The two picks this month are sour cream coffee cake (selected by Gwenn of Cooking in Pajamas) and scalloped tomatoes (selected by Josie of Pink Parsley).

I've had a go-to coffee cake recipe for, oh, over 20 years now. In fact, I posted it here. I had no expectation that this one would unseat it from it's favored position, but was I ever wrong. It has streusel (which I doubled based on the feedback on the Food Network site) and to quote one of my tasters "This is everything a coffee cake is supposed to be...buttery, fluffy, just perfect." I can't recommend this recipe highly enough. It's easy and delicious, an unbeatable combination in my book. Please make it soon! You can find the recipe here.

I had trouble imagining the second selection for the month, scalloped tomatoes. I was making some Indian dishes with Kayte, one of my Twitter buddies, and I had pulled some naan out of the freezer to serve with soup. If you know me at all, you know I'm lazy, so I had left a piece of naan out overnight. Rather than throwing it away, I tore it into chunks and used it in place of the boule that the recipe calls for. I didn't saute it in olive oil, preferring to let the juices from the tomatoes soften and flavor the naan. Baked for 15 minutes, this came out bubbly and fragrant from the garlic. It was delicious and truly a wonderful way to use leftover bread.

If you'd like the recipe the way Ina intended, you'll find it here.

My thanks to Gwenn and Jody for picking two real winners. We really enjoyed both of these picks.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Triscuit Home Farming

The weather across the nation has been hot. Hot, hot, hot. Most of us have planted our gardens or resigned ourselves to starting a garden next year, yes, definitely next year.

I love to garden. Since I live in San Jose where lot sizes are tiny, having as large a garden as I want is impossible. Way back when, before I met M., I used to have a large plot at a community garden, and I raised countless varieties of tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. After a couple of years I gave up the community garden and satisfied myself with planting a few tomatoes in our back yard. They're tucked in between the roses and a lemon tree. I really don't have anywhere else to put them!

When Triscuit contacted me about their home farming program, I was intrigued. It works like this: When you buy a box of Triscuits, a packet of herb seeds is included in the package. After soaking the seeds for a couple of hours, you separate the two layers of cardboard and plant the cardboard (which has the seeds affixed) in an 8" pot. Cover with some soil, and water it regularly. The seeds should sprout in 10 days or so. The nice people at Kraft sent me two boxes of Triscuits so I could try it out. And they also gave me a gift card for $20 for supplies.

It's too early for my seeds to have sprouted as I only planted them last Sunday, but I'm jazzed to spread the word about this fun program. Triscuit has a website dedicated to the program which you can find here. They have gardening experts (Paul James!), a forum to learn more about home farming and a community forum to share your questions and experiences with growing your own herbs and vegetables. This aligns so well with the increased attention that childhood obesity is finally receiving. Children who learn how to garden and grow their own vegetables are less like to fill up on junk food and empty calories, and far more likely to want to try vegetables, which is half the battle.

Thanks, Triscuit, for inviting me to sample this fun gardening project. I can't wait to cook with the dill and basil I planted.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CEiMB - Chicken Paella

This will be a short post. My Twitter buddy Margaret of Tea & Scones chose this recipe for Craving Ellie in My Belly. I made this paella for dinner tonight. The recipe calls for sausage, which I omitted, and chicken thighs, which I substituted for with chicken breasts. Early feedback on this one indicated the flavor needed help, so I added smoked Spanish paprika in addition to doubling the garlic. I should have added more paprika as the flavor was still very muted. But it was quick and easy and that's always appreciated.

If you'd like the recipe, you'll find it in Ellie Krieger's book So Easy. And make sure you visit the other Craving Ellie in my Belly cooks. You'll find them here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

My dear blogging buddy Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes selected the Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. If you know me at all, you know that I love chocolate. Deep, dark chocolate. I'm not a fan of milk chocolate, and not even so much for semi-sweet. This loaf cake, with its punch of cocoa fit nicely into the deep, dark realm that I love so much.

This was another Tuesdays with Dorie selection I made before I went on vacation, and I had serendipitously picked up a container of sour cream at the market, vaguely thinking I needed it for something. Also serendipitously, I had two sticks of butter out on the counter, so I was ready to go when the chocolate urge struck.

Dorie's recipe calls for a jam syrup to fill the split cake, but I didn't have the right jam and didn't want to buy any, so I used some ganache from the freezer to both fill and frost the cake. This made it an even easier cake to knock out on a weeknight, and the double hit of chocolate was appreciated by my co-workers.

Thanks, Amy, for a super pick! If you'd like the recipe, Amy has it for you here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hazelnut Honey Madeleines

Truth be told, if I hadn't skipped the last several Sweet Melissa Sundays recipes, I would have skipped this one. Even though I've been home from vacation for a few days, I haven't accomplished a lot.

The recipe calls for roasted hazelnuts, and I stressed over this. With skins or without? Dry roasted? Then I realized I had hazelnut flour, so I used that instead of buying roasted hazelnuts and grinding them in the food processor. The recipe calls for chestnut honey, but since it only uses 1 tablespoon for the whole recipe (and I only made a half recipe), I just used clover honey from the pantry. Maybe the chestnut honey would have made this better, but I kind of doubt 1/2 tablespoon of honey could transform a recipe.

This was the easiest madeleine recipe I've ever made. The dry ingredients (hazelnut flour, confectioners' sugar and flour) are whisked. The butter is melted and browned (I skipped straining the browned butter). Egg whites are beaten until frothy, then mixed in with the honey to the dry ingredients. Finally, the browned butter is mixed in to the batter. Spoon the batter into the molds and refrigerate for two hours before baking. How easy is that?! The batter was DELICIOUS, and I was so excited to taste the baked madeleines. I'm sorry to say the baked madeleines were overly sweet and I couldn't taste the browned butter and hazelnuts. Very disappointing.

The full recipe yields 24 madeleines, but I got 15 from my half batch.

This recipe was chosen by Debbie of Cafe Chibita. Thanks for hosting this week, Debbie. I hope you're feeling better! Sorry I wasn't thrilled with your pick.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And the winner is...

Many thanks to all of you who suggested souvenirs. I adopted many suggestions (chocolate is always a suitable gift, well, unless you're buying for your friends who don't love chocolate).

Using our friend the random number generator, the winner of the Danish blue prep bowls is:

True Random Number Generator  9Powered by RANDOM.ORG

The 9th comment was from none other than another of my blogging friends, Susan of Baking with Susan. Congratulations, Susan!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Scottish Shortbread

I'm a big fan of Michael Ruhlman and have been ever since The Making of a Chef was first published. It made me fall in love with the idea of going to culinary school. I ultimately realized that wasn't my path, but my infatuation with the Culinary Institute of America is alive and well.  A few years ago I attended a pastry boot camp there and it was one of the best weeks of my life. Ruhlman's prose is beautiful and his passion for food so evident; he respects and honors food and the creative process of cooking. Ruhlman dedicates much of his energy to getting people excited about cooking at home and gathering around something worth eating.

Last year, he published Ratio, a book that teaches the home cook the ratios that are the trained chef's secret. While at boot camp, I learned the ratio for tart dough and butter cookies, called 1-2-3 for the ratio of ingredients by weight. The ratio makes it possible to scale the recipe to a single cookie or enough cookies for every child in your son's school.

When I saw Ruhlman write about this shortbread on his blog, I was reminded of the times I've made shortbread and it fell short. Overhandled, dry, crumbly. This recipe has four ingredients, one of which is rice flour, and is made in the mixer (though you can do it by hand). The simple elegance of the recipe belies the crisp, buttery cookie. Leave a stick of butter on your counter when you go to work and you can come home and make an impressively simple and delicious cookie. It will pair wonderfully with leftover ice cream; dipped in melted chocolate it's a special treat.

Try it soon, but remember that the recipe gives you the foundation to take off from. Mix up the flavors and make it your own. Made with vanilla sugar and the scrapings of a vanilla bean, it's a different cookie. With the addition of chopped candied ginger, it becomes a sweet, spicy treat to be enjoyed with tea or chai. Go savory with finely minced thyme or rosemary. That's the beauty of his book. It gives you the framework to make these things easily and make them your own.

NOTE:  Lethally Delicious is on vacation! But I'll be back soon... In the meantime, have you entered my giveaway? You can find it here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I don't want to say something polarizing like "Who doesn't love cinnamon bread?", but really, who DOESN'T love cinnamon bread? And if you sneak a little cocoa into the swirl like Dorie Greenspan does, all the better in my book.

I made this a week before leaving on my vacation, and I had no raisins in the pantry. Being lazy and cheap (my main drivers), I passed on making a run to the store to buy some. I thought about adding chopped pecans, but again, I'm lazy, so I didn't.

This lovely, rich yeast bread didn't need either raisins or pecans. It was delicious without. I used instant yeast (my eternal gratitude to Tracey for posting the link for a yeast conversion calculator). I mixed the dough more like the technique in The Bread Baker's Apprentice than in Baking From My Home to Yours (dump most everything in the mixer with the dough hook and turn it on--you can do this when you use instant yeast as it doesn't need to proof).

I mixed the dough, let it rise and shaped it in the evening and let the shaped loaf rise in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I pulled it out an hour before baking to take the chill off, then baked it as Dorie suggested. I highly recommend breaking up the preparation this way as you can have warm cinnamon bread for breakfast without having to get up at 4 AM. Finally, I brushed the hot-from-the-oven loaf with butter and coated the top with cinnamon sugar, a suggestion from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

The resulting loaf was delicious, familiar yet even better than traditional cinnamon bread. It was almost as good as the BBA cinnamon bread I made last year.

If you want to start a riot, bring just one loaf of this delicious bread into your office.  Swarms of my coworkers made it to the break room after the last crumbs had been devoured, and they were deeply disappointed.

Many thanks to Susan of Food.Baby who chose this recipe for all of the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers to make this week. It's from the book Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Susan has the recipe up on her post.

P.S.:  Have you entered my giveaway? You can find it here.
Lethally Delicious is on vacation! I'll be back in a couple of days so responses to comments may be a bit delayed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Bought You Something in Denmark!

Yes, I'm on vacation and I'm thinking of you. I saw these bowls and thought they were the most adorable (and useful) prep bowls. They are made of melamine and are dishwasher safe but should NOT be used in the microwave or oven. They have a non-slip bottom and a pour spout. They were designed and made in Denmark. I recall seeing similar bowls on America's Test Kitchen and they found that spices like turmeric stained the bottom. I'm not sure if that will be the case with these so beware.

Since my suitcase isn't big enough to bring back one of these for each of you, I'll randomly pick a winner from everyone who leaves a comment on this post telling me what is your favorite thing to buy your friends back home when you're on vacation (yes, I need ideas!) I'll pick a winner a 9 AM Pacific June 17th. Only U.S. and Canada addresses (sorry!)

Totally random and unnecessary photo of the view from my balcony. Yes, it's cold and rainy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

REAL Key Lime Pie

I can't take it anymore, so I'm going to rant, lecture, wave my arms and generally make a fool of myself. But you'll get a recipe before it's over.

If you're not from Florida:

Key lime juice is not the same thing as lime juice. Key limes are yellow. If you see a "Key" lime pie that's green, it's not the real thing.

When you make a recipe for Key Lime Pie, please don't call it Key Lime Pie unless it contains Key lime juice. Call it a lime pie, people won't think less of it. They'll still enjoy it. It's not like Buffalo chicken wings, which are made in the style of those from the city of Buffalo...there isn't any buffalo in the chicken wings.

When I was growing up in Miami, everyone had a Key lime tree. To make Key lime pie, you had to juice a lot of little Key limes to get enough juice to make a pie, but it was so puckeringly tart that it complimented the sweetened condensed milk and made a delightful sweet/tart creamy dreamy pie. You would never think of using the rind of the lime to make it more limey because with Key limes there is no doubt what your dessert is.

I'm not a complete Neanderthal, so now that I live in California, I do buy Key lime juice in a bottle, but it comes from actual Key limes so I'm OK with it.

My grandmother would have made her Key lime pie with a pastry crust as that is traditional, but I like mine in a graham cracker crust. This brings me to my recipe for Key lime pie. It's not for the faint of heart as it has a bazillion calories, a whole cup of Key lime juice, six uncooked egg yolks and two cans of sweetened condensed milk. But you'll have a killer Key lime pie.

Lethally Delicious is on vacation, so responses to comments will be delayed. This post (and others) was squirreled away for a rainy day. Enjoy!

Key Lime Pie - makes one 9" pie
Printable Recipe

Note:  I never use graham cracker crumbs for my graham cracker pie crusts. To me, the flavor and texture just aren't the same, but you can use them to make this easier. You can crush your graham crackers in the food processor or blender.

For the crust:
6 ounces graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:
6 very fresh large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 14 ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup Key lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust:  Pulverize the graham crackers in a food processor or blender. Place in a medium mixing bowl, stir in the sugar and pour the melted butter over the crumbs. Mix well with a fork or your hand. Transfer to a 9" pie plate, patting well until you have a uniform crust. Bake crust for 8 minutes, or until fragrant or lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling:  Beat egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment until pale yellow and ribbon-like, about 8 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until combined. Turn mixer to low and add Key lime juice in a slow stream and mix until combined. Pour into pie shell. Refrigerate 4-6 hours or until set.

Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 10

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tender Strawberry (Jam) Shortcakes

What, you've never heard of jam shortcakes? Well, I plead temporary insanity. I made these the day before I left on vacation last week and that was only because I was sick, forgetful and completely out of strawberries. But this Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Cathy at The Tortefeasor. Who doesn't love Cathy? I love her posts, her successes, near misses and hilarious fails. I love reading about (and her gorgeous photos of) her three adorable children and her husband David. So even though I was not feeling well and WAY behind on packing and other preparations for my trip, I wanted to make this. So I made 1/6th of the recipe (the math and yield were perfect).

Although Dorie's recipe was easy and described the procedure very well, I recommend this post by Jessica's brother for it's classic Southern technique.

The shortcakes were super easy to make. I portioned out two shortcakes and put them in the oven. 13 minutes later, they were done. I let them cool, quickly whisked some whipping cream in a bowl, spooned it over a split shortcake. They were very tender and the top sort of broke into a few pieces, but no worries. The pieces were just as delicious with the cream and homemade strawberry jam. Too delicious really!

Thanks, Cathy, for picking a recipe I could make less than 24 hours before boarding a plane, with no stress or mess.

P.S. In my rush, I had a hard time getting a photo of these that didn't include Pearl. She was very focused on getting some yummy shortcake for herself:


Lethally Delicious is on vacation, so responses to comments will be delayed. This post (and others) were saved for you and will pop up every few days until I get back next week.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies (Almost Health Food)

Finally, chocolate chip cookies that are GOOD for you!  Well, if you overlook the two cups of sugar and two sticks of butter. But all whole wheat flour! Hello, whole grains!

I saw these on Tracey's Culinary Adventures (and Tracey found them in Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours) and knew I had to make them. Like Tracey, I used all white whole wheat flour, but you can use regular whole wheat. The wheat gives them a crunchy texture and nutty flavor. The recipe called for chopped bittersweet chocolate, and I used half 60% and half 70% feves, which I chopped roughly. This gave me the luscious sheets of chocolate that we like so much from the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies (commonly referred to as the New York Times cookies). I've made the NYT cookies before (see the tasting here). Like Tracey, I made the dough, scooped it out and refrigerated it for eight hours before baking. I pulled them out when the edges were set and the centers still soft, about 16 minutes. Warm from the oven, they're perfection. I have a bunch that I scooped out and tucked away in the freezer so we can bake off a couple after dinner when the feeling strikes.

Thanks, Tracey, for bringing this recipe to our attention! These were so yummy they're now a favorite here. I ate three for dinner the night I made them. Yup, they're that good. Tracey has the recipe for you here, along with some great photos. Make them soon!

Lethally Delicious is on vacation! This post (and others) were saved for you, but responses to comments will be delayed. I'll be back around June 17th.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

White Chocolate Brownies

Did you hear the collective sigh of relief the other day? The June Tuesdays with Dorie recipe picks were posted, and the much anticipated white chocolate brownies were selected by Marthe at Culinary Delights. This may be the single-most lobbied for dessert of all time. Clara didn't pick them when it was her turn, but she waited patiently (well, sort of) for someone else to pick them. Enter Marthe and our first pick for June.

I'm glad there was a photo of these in the book because I would have been crushed if I hadn't known what they were supposed to look like. For me the word "brownie" evokes feelings of anticipation for a treat like this

or these

Like, aren't brownies that don't have chocolate called blondies? I guess not. Because these have not a whisper of chocolate (that is, chocolate made from cacao) and Dorie still calls them brownies. I've learned to expect the unexpected from Dorie (as with the last recipe we made with white chocolate) so I did not add chocolate to this recipe. Somebody check on Kayte. She may have just fainted.

You may not be able to tell from my photo, but this is a layer of cake made with almond meal, which is topped with meringue before being baked.

I actually read the instructions fully before making the recipe, and knew immediately that flipping a meringue-topped dessert onto any surface and then re-flipping it was a guaranteed fail for your klutzy friend (me). So I used a large piece of parchment to line the pan.

My one mistake was to use pasteurized egg whites instead of cracking three eggs and separating them. We eat a ton of egg white omelettes and I always have a surplus of yolks. The pasteurized whites didn't beat up as nicely as I would have liked even though my bowl and beaters were scrupulously clean and grease-free.

OK, so maybe there was one other tiny mistake. I didn't want to buy premium white chocolate so I used the last of a bag of Choc-au-Lait chips (yeah, yeah, I know they don't melt as well but it worked out in the end). They finished in first place in the Cook's Illustrated white baking chip taste test so I figured they'd be good. Plus they were already in my pantry.

The P&Qs showed that these babies needed more time in the oven to bake completely, so I baked them for 48 minutes. The parchment liner made it hard to tell if the brownies were pulling away from the sides of the pan, but the meringue topping was crackly.

These were tasty but just not my thing. They lasted a good long time at work, which is pretty unusual. Still, I'm glad these finally were picked as I know lots of my fellow TWD bakers loved them. You can find them all here.

Thanks, Marthe, for hosting us this week and making Clara happy with your pick! If you'd like the recipe, Marthe will have it posted for you.